INDUSTRY INSIGHTThought Leadership

Food for good

Abdulrahman Al-Suwaidi, MD and CEO, QAFCO, and Chairman, GPCA, Agri-Nutrients Committee, shares the company’s approach for a sustainable, food-secure future

What are some of the key risks and challenges facing the agri-nutrient industry in 2023-2024?

Climate change has become one of biggest challenges across all economic activities and the agri-nutrient industry is not an exception. The challenge for the agri-nutrient industry will be how to ensure it optimizes its environmental impact without compromizing its ability to support the global agri-food value chain.

Climate change is leading to changes in weather patterns, temperatures and rainfall which all have an impact on the agri-food chain. These changes can result in insufficient access to enough affordable, healthy food for all, which can lead to even further consequential challenges.

Some environmental impacts are closely associated with agri-nutrient producers, although they can be the result of an excessive use of nutrients. These can be addressed through improvement of farming practices, a focus on improving Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE) and higher efficiency agri-nutrients.

The affordability and accessibility of agri-nutrients are challenges faced by many growers across the world, exacerbating increasing food prices and availability. These challenges can partly be addressed by the identification and removal of trade barriers, reviewing the efficacy of regulatory policies and improvement of distribution channels.

Ultimately, the entire agri-food value chain needs to be assessed by all stakeholders to identify potential areas for improvement. The agri-nutrient industry is critical to achieve SDG 2: Zero Hunger and to protect further deterioration of natural habitats and biodiversity, but it will require the support of stakeholders to achieve it.

How has the Russia-Ukraine war disrupted the agri-nutrient market and what new opportunities has it created for QAFCO and agri-nutrient producers in the region?

The Russia-Ukraine war has had a major impact on the entire agri-food chain in general and will continue to do so for at least the medium term. Besides other challenges such as climate-related impact on traditional growing seasons, it continues to create uncertainties in the market which must be evaluated and addressed as they arise.

The GCC region supplies about a third of the world’s traded urea supply and, in a world of volatility and uncertainty, it can provide much needed stability for an essential product.

How should the industry transform to meet the growing demand for food due to an increasing population, estimated to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, and rising urbanization, with 68% of the population projected to live in cities by 2050?

The world is no closer to achieving Zero Hunger (SDG 2) now than when the target was established in 2015. Like climate change, food security is a global challenge, not a regional one. If the world does not collaborate on this matter, it will continue to have undesirable consequences for all. The agri-food chain has many stakeholders and opportunities for improvement exist along its entirety.

For example, we need to identify policies and practices which lead to food loss (pre-consumer) and food waste (post-consumer).

As an industry, we should work with farmers and regulators to improve Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE) through enhanced agri-nutrient products, and promote improved agricultural practices and policies which enable access to agri-nutrients.

How is QAFCO addressing ongoing sustainability requirements presented by global and regional initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, Qatar’s own National Vision, the Paris Accord, etc., and what is the role of agri-nutrients in meeting global sustainability objectives?

QAFCO has established a dedicated team to ensure sustainability principles are embedded into QAFCO’s business. QAFCO’s approach is very pragmatic in setting achievable goals with clear plans on how the company will realize sustainability targets, such as reduction of waste, emissions and discharge.

QAFCO has engaged in several activities and initiatives relevant to sustainability, specifically potential areas of opportunities in environmental sustainability. QAFCO has implemented several projects that directly contribute toward environmental protection and operating its facilities in an environmentally responsible manner. These include:

  • Improving operational efficiency to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful substances
  • Installing a continuous emission monitoring system
  • Execution of a project to eliminate all discharge to sea from QAFCO
  • Establishment of a greenhouse gas accounting system that is in line with Qatar’s and international accounting and reporting requirements

QAFCO’s core business contributes to the achievement of SDG 2: Zero Hunger. The agri-nutrient industry is estimated to support growing food for approximately half of the world’s current population.

Additionally, with the full support of its parent company, QAFCO is investing in the world’s largest dedicated low-carbon ammonia (blue ammonia) facility to support reduction of the global GHG footprint.

Decarbonization and net-zero are key drivers for the industry at the moment. Do you have any key projects, achievements or objectives associated with advancing sustainability across QAFCO?

As stated above, QAFCO has established a dedicated team to ensure sustainability principles are embedded into the business using a very pragmatic approach to setting achievable goals with clear plans on how the company will achieve them. It is in line with QAFCO’s Value of Integrity that we know how to achieve what we say we will.

QAFCO will be reducing its GHG footprint as far as practicable. However, as technology develops and new innovations are identified, we will continue to work with technology licensors to improve our environmental performance.

QAFCO’s customers and stakeholders can rest assured that, when we establish an environmental target, there is always a plan to back up the claim.